Supermolecules

Everything is chemistry. Everything contains chemistry. Is everything just chemistry? Some say it is.

It seems that the complexity of life processes could be explained by the grace of a few molecules’ superpowers: SEROTONIN, DOPAMINE, ENDORPHINS, ADRENALINE…

OXYTOCIN is popular now, the “love molecule” of stable relationships, fidelity, monogamy, serenity, embrace.

OXYTOCIN is a nanopeptide, ie, a peptide, a molecule formed by the union of 9 (nona) amino-acids, those too formed by the union of…(…) those too formed by the union of atoms… those too formed by the union of particles… Everything is made of particles.

This particular stream of particles of the atoms of the 9 amino acids, OXYTOCIN, is the one that can turn (by injecting it into specific brain areas) a promiscuous mountain vole, only occupied in fertilizing voles and not caring about offspring nor love relationships once its duty has been fulfilled, into a caring lover and responsible parent, monogamous, just like the OXYTOCIN ordered.

The mountain vole has a relative, the  prairie vole, that is a pleasure to see. Monogamous, cuddly, tender, paternal, friendly, quiet … The only difference with the promiscuous cousin of the mountains is in the density of OXYTOCIN receptors in his brain. The one of the mountains isn’t a bad guy. OXYTOCIN fails him. He’s sick. They give him OXYTOCIN and he improves. He returns to the fold.

OXYTOCIN establishes the social glue of the groups. Every hug and every romantic encounter reinforces the bonds within a group… and walls within a group.

OXYTOCIN is friends with another supermolecule, the DOPAMINE, responsible for memorizing behaviors judged as appropriate or obnoxious. OXYTOCIN promotes the memorization of everything that is desirable for the group cohesion and its sidekick, DOPAMINE, is responsible for moving (motivating) the individual in a properly labeled behaviour, every time the relevant context shows up.

Actually all the supermolecules do is transmit orders to cells: “do it!”. They don’t even know the content of what they are ordering, let alone why or what for. They are simple fingers that activate buttons in the corresponding cell receptors. Once the powerful OXYTOCIN finger has pressed the button of its receptor’s complex molecule (a protein, also a “simple” sequence of amino acids, but much longer than the nine of the nanopeptide) a complex chain of intracellular reactions is set in motion, making the individual want to hug his lover.

The chemistry that strengthens the bonds within a group (couple, family, pack) strengthens the avoidance and fear behaviors of the extra-groupal. OXYTOCIN promotes hugging the partner, but also encourages to defend the relationship of other potential suitors. “You are only mine…”

Supermolecules are capricious, contradictory. They can do one thing one day and the opposite the next day. It depends. They depend on when, why and for what they are said to do the run-go-and-tell the cells to do what they know.

The “Open Sesame!” doesn’t have the power to open any door without a voice reader (receptor of “open sesame!”) that initiates the process of opening the door. Oxytocin is one of the many messages circulating in the organisms, communicating decisions of complicated circuits of memory-prediction.

The changing with the times promotes the hope of providing supermolecules to solve any inconvenience. Maybe we can’t get the provision of supermolecules on demand, but that doesn’t solve the big issues:

When, how much, where, why, what for … What will they think of me?

The neural network is evolving to solve the difficult problem of decision making, facing oneself and others. The brain may have serious supermolecule supply problems, maybe we go around with a low level of endorphins and oxytocins and it all gets solved with the decision of replacing them with injections, nasal sprays or genetic engineering, on demand. Maybe. In schizophrenia and autism oxytocin is low and maybe just a little external help is enough… Maybe…

OXYTOCIN?

A molecule for love. A molecule for lobbies.

Sharp pain

One of the many ways to hurt oneself is with sharp objects. The defensive resources of the neuronal network have been selected to address specific danger situations. In nature there are sharp objects: prickles, splinters, thorns. They can contact with our species and cause problems. The nocivity detecting neurons (nociceptors) are capable of localizing precisely the attack by a sharp object and releasing a motor response of pincer grip that, even with our eyes closed, removes the pointy attacker.

Inside, there is nothing like the thorns, and a pincer grip doesn’t make sense. Aggressive internal events are not precisely located, and pain doesn’t help to show exactly where the problem is.

Pain is often expressed in the form of sharp pain without needing to have been attacked with something sharp. It’s an acute pain, very localized, intense, temporary. It usually generates anxiety due to it’s strange character. There may be sharp pain everywhere. They are common in the head and chest.

Sharp pain encourages us to ask the doctor about it, due to our worry about its possible origin. Sharp features are a sign of banality for professionals, of absence of “organicity” … once the sharp objects are discarded in the area of the sharp pain.

At the time when everything was interpreted as vascular, it was said that sharp pain was produced by  arterial spasms, completely unfounded. They also resort to the explanation of muscle spams, but muscular pain generates a very different, poorly localized, dull pain.

After sharp pain, there is usually nothing abnormal. Just an escape of painful perception from a nociceptive system on alert, in the absence of damage.

Sharp pain can be annoying, but don’t worry. If doubts persist, the doctor’s office is inevitable. I can’t recall any case in which someone with sharp pain actually had something. Scans were are asked in order to solve the doubt and, invariably, they were normal.

Sharp pain is frequent, annoying, disturbing … Things are not as they seem, again. Sharp pain is usually banal and the only thing it indicates is that there is an active alert somewhere.

Overload

 

Muscles have limits. They’re not prepared to do any task and when those limits are exceeded they protest: they generate danger signals that reach the evaluative brain areas from which, according to criteria and contexts, the perception of pain is projected on the body area the muscle is working at.

 

One of the punishments we had at school was to keep our arms crossed. It hurt. Once it was over, the pain disappeared.

 

Working in an office in front of the computer is not exactly the same as keeping your arms crossed in school, but it may have some similarities. We force particular muscles to stay contracted. Mostly the upper-trapezium.

 

Muscles have several types of fibers with different metabolisms. Some are able to withstand a prolonged but light load, and others generate an explosive strength but get tired easily. When the required load is small and constant, only the small and resistant motor units are activated. They are the “Cinderella” units, as they are the ones that put up with most of the everyday office tasks.

 

There are many citizens (especially women) that suffer from upper-trapezium pain, related to working on the computer. It’s accepted that the muscle is overloaded. Too much is asked of it. What is less clear is the genesis of pain. Bad posture? Accumulation of overload? Stress? Trigger Points?

 

Exercises, relaxation, anti-inflammatory drugs (although there’s no inflammation), needles are suggested.

 

X-rays, MRIs are taken.

 

It’s said: you’re stressed, you have several herniated discs…

 

Advice is given: too much work… this activity isn’t good for your spine… swimming, yoga.

 

Nowadays it’s difficult to avoid the constant activity in front of a computer. Since it is so, it would be good to do it with a good technique. Economic automated programs, with minimal muscle activity.

 

The good technique includes, in addition to ergonomic elements and psychological calmness regarding the task in progress, good vibes with the task, bosses and colleagues and trust in the body to organize the activity safely and effectively. No irrational fears.

 

Overloads are fought by lightening absurd, unproductive loads. For this, it’s necessary to observe the patient in his environment, in his activity, and make physiological corrections.

 

- Get on the computer.

 

It’s like a music lesson:

 

- Play…

 

The muscles are part of actions. An action or activity is more than a muscle contraction.

 

Behind the pain there are many factors to consider.

 

Behind a bad musical performance as well.

 

The teacher’s work is essential.

 

The student’s, of course, too.

Outbreaks of pain

In the presence of a manifest harmful event (consummated or imminent necrosis), the pain arises from the brain as a result of the arrival of a damage signal flow that was generated in the afflicted area. Nociceptors (vigilant neurons of damage) transform (transduce) the molecular messages of the attacked cells and the responsible stimulus (mechanical, thermal, chemical, biological) into electrical potentials that activate the group of brain areas that generate the perception of pain.

- My right index finger hurts. I’ve accidentally hit it with a hammer. See how it looks. It’s swollen … I can’t even touch it…

In this case, the perception of pain has a clear origin, an event that generates a noxious stimuli enough for the brain to project the painful perception on that area.

The problem comes when we feel pain in the absence of a noxious event or state capable of stimulating nociceptors. Pain receptors of damage need a stimulation of sufficient intensity. A heat nociceptor only generates a signal above 45ºC. There are also other heat receptors that are activated under 45ºC and we feel painless heat but, if we pass that limit, we feel pain. The nociceptors of dangerous heat have been activated and the nociceptors of harmless heat have been turned off.

An area hurts. There are no extreme temperatures. No dangerous mechanical, chemical or biological stimulus turns on any nociceptor. Nothing relevant is happening there… but the perception of pain has sprung from the brain. Project, there and now.

What makes this perception of the painful brain areas emerge?

The answer is simple. A threat assessment has been produced in the predictive memory systems. The brain expects possible damage. There and now. Why? We don’t know. The brain represents reality as a probability without expecting it to actually happen.

The pain can be reached both by noxious events and their “pre-diction”. No confirmation of the feared is needed. The pain is not only a result of the consummated or imminent harm. It’s also the result of the theoretical evaluative states of the “pre-feelings”.

The outbreak of pain forces the individual to pay attention and evaluate the painful area, consider what may be happening and what it may be due to (trigger).

The outbreak may happen after eating chocolate or changing weather conditions.

- My head hurts. I shouldn’t have eaten chocolate.

Really the chocolate hasn’t activated a population of nociceptors. The painful brain areas have been turned on by the action: eating chocolate, a forbidden food for being classified as potentially harmful.

The evaluative brain judges states, events, actions, omissions … to which it attributes a capacity of threat. The pain arises when it reaches the theoretical, speculative danger level in the representation of the body. Nothing happens or is going to happen, but the theoretical attribution is enough to bring out the painful perception. Aggression, consummated or imminent nocivity is not necessary. There is no flow of nociceptive signal.

Since the moment the individual receives the perceptive projection of pain, he is involved in its development. He will have to make decisions, consider possible causes and remedies.

- It hurts. Why? What I can do to make it stop?

Culture has instructed us in the external solution:

- Take a painkiller. Don’t wait.

Even if nothing happens, the brain, the organ of the virtual, of the imagined, requires what it believes should be done. If in its circuits it’s said that he should take the painkiller, the pain will remain until the individual meets the requirements.

- I didn’t want to take anything but, in the end, I had to …

Pain requires behaviors, actions. That’s the function of any perception, proposing actions, selecting aspects of reality, filtering, amplifying …

Outbreaks depend on the neuronal network’s dynamics. They don’t adjust to the logic of tangible causes and effects.
In pain outbreaks caused by evaluative and probabilistic dynamics, irrationality, error, phobic and superstitious fear and addiction to relieving behaviors are the ones that rule.

Any irrational action can neutralize the irrational fear. The brain’s instruction to demand it is enough. The nocebo and placebo relay on irrelevant conditions. They turn the harmless into potentially destructive, and the unnecessary into a necessary and sufficient remedy.

The probabilistic cerebral ravings are corrected by pruning the weights of the neuronal connectivity that attribute danger to the non-dangerous. We must project rationality, knowledge, bringing virtuality to reality

- Don’t buy lottery tickets. You won’t win.

- And what if that number is the winner? The need to buy it has sprung.

Virtual battles must be fought in the virtual field, but we don’t always win. It’s a matter of time, perseverance and determination.

- The pain has sprung. The brain hallucinates. It imagines pain … What a cross to bear!!

Relax…

 

Voluntary movements don’t exist. Through will, we can only formulate purposes of interaction with objects (including our own body). The individual suggests objectives and the brain organizes the appropriate motor programs. If possible, economic, functional and without risk of structural damage. It’s achieved through learning. The first day of driving, the application to navigate the vehicle activates a program with too many muscles. This program is expensive and inefficient and stresses the structure. With practice, the brain gains cost-effectiveness.

Sometimes, unnecessary and parasite muscular contractions show up in our actions. They generate muscular tension, wasted effort … pain. They ease the appearance of trigger points. The individual isn’t aware of it, but with a minimum of concentration he can self-project the advice: “relax …” and eliminate that unproductive mechanical burden.

Muscular consistency can be influenced by the involuntary bonus of contraction ordered by neuronal stimulation, product of an excessive psychological stress over all types of uncertainties in the execution of the action.

The uncertainty that generates unnecessary muscular tension can refer, from the perspective of the individual, to the result of the execution (exams, reports, musical performance, sports …) or, from the perspective of the organism, to the consequences that the execution of the task may do to an structure classified as vulnerable, worn, arthritic …

Every action requires a proper technique, a program that saves resources and optimizes results. This involves motivation without excesses or defects, a touch of anxiety and concentration in order to comply, removing any poorly founded theoretical uncertainty about failure or physical cost.

You can be sitting in front of the computer for hours without it leading necessarily to pain and mechanical stress but, if psychological conditions of anxious uncertainty are attached, it will have the unproductive company of unecessarily contracted muscles… that end up generating a nociceptive signal for surpassing the limit of its metabolic resistance or for activating myofascial points due to this mixed state contraction that’s held on alert.

- If I work on the computer my neck hurts a lot. I’ve already been told that my spine is a mess, that it has multiple hernias … contractures, lumps … I shouldn’t abuse, but my job requires it…

The patterns of “I need …” but “it’s not good for me” are especially “harmful”. In these cases, it’s essential to avoid unnecessary muscle contraction, have economy and judgement on the motor circuits.

The routine, the everyday activity must have automated programs that enhance the non-contractile viscoelastic factors and small fixes of the small and precise spinal muscles. Postural hygiene is not about starching a pattern referred to as ideal and maintaining it at all costs. That only creates problems. It’s more complicated. Is a technique with mechanical and psychological components.

I have already referred several times to my activity as a musical performer and the role of my teacher.

- I don’t know if you’re playing the cello or not. What I can assure you is that it won’t hurt you. Sit well, relax… more… think… concentrate… feel…

Throughout the classes a more economic and efficient (better sound) program  was being automated. I think that activity was good for the structure… provided the technique was correct.

- The neck is very contracted… you have to learn how to look…